Welcome to Portia, Builder!

My Time at Portia is one of those games I always wanted to come to console, and now, it has. I was lucky enough to get a review code for the game on Xbox One as well and I've put aside Division 2 for the last few weeks to crack on with this fun game so I could get a really good idea of how it's made the leap to console.

For those of you who don't know what My Time at Portia is, it's basically a third person game which takes elements from things like Stardew Valley, Yonder, and other games of the crafting-farm-life simulation and improves on them to provide a solid entry into the genre.

You play as a Builder whose dad's left them a workshop, buggered off to do his own thing, and sailed off to horizons new in this post-disaster world that Portia is part of.

The first few days...

You create a custom male or female character and you're then introduced to elements of this game world through a series of small, informative, and structured tutorials which get you up to speed on the main things you need to know.

You have a stamina meter, and everything you do which could be considered strenuous depletes that meter. Foods and potions can restore parts of it, or the whole thing. So gathering stones and wood, kicking trees to get fruits and so forth, all of that eats into your meter and at the start you don't have very much in the way of stamina.

Once you make an axe and a pickaxe, things get a little easier; you can get more resources and chop/mine more efficiently. Your first few days are going to be a slow intro to aspects of the game and as you progress further into it, you'll find out there's a lot of things to see/do/experience in Portia when you're ready.

From small beginnings!

You start out with a very basic workshop, a little house, broken down and ramshackle. You earn your Builder's License and you can then take on commissions for the Commerce Commission - here's where you'll earn a bunch of money, rep, and xp for your character. As you level up your Builder you'll get points to put into a fairly decent skill tree and improve aspects of your character.

You can get boosts to stamina, tool usage, and even xp earned from activities.

Also, virtually everything you do in Portia earns you some form of xp, so it's a game which rewards you as you play.

Mining, chopping wood, and crafting certain items gives you xp for example.

Rather like your workshop you also start out with a small scale operation, making little things at your workbench to improve your own character's life, or to sell for money at the shops in Portia. You have a level 1 assembly platform and only a few diagrams in your workshop handbook.

Wait, workshop handbook, and assembly platform?

Yeah...

The meat and bones of the whole thing boils down to being able to make more complex things for people, as part of commissions or again, just to sell. Once you have the raw materials you can refine them into building materials and then use them in your hotbar/quickbar to assemble the item from the schematic you place down.

It breaks down like this.

Say you need to construct a stone furnace, one of the earliest furnaces you can make in the game. These low-grade machines are vital for smelting raw ore into a variety of bars so you can then use them to construct other things in the game.

The schematic will tell you the materials you need and provide a ghost-image of the machine on your platform.

1 stone stool and 8 wood are required, and you make the stone stool from your workbench.

When you place the stool and wood on the schematic you'll get the finished product.

It's really easy, and it's a fun way of constructing things that might appear grindy at first but grows on you rapidly as you get more and more into the crafting side of the game.

As the commissions get bigger, and the story advances, you'll need to range further afield for materials and also upgrade your workshop, land, workbench, assembly station and other buildings if you want to meet the demands of a growing bustling hub that Portia will become.

Chests for Every Occasion

I have to stop here for a moment and point out some great quality of life additions that Portia has, these make material management and collecting vast quantities of resources a breeze. You can craft up wooden chests and metal chests (later on) which let you store your accumulated goods, items, and more.

Early game you're probably going to have a lot of these and you can name them, which is pretty standard fare right?

What if I told you that you could access any chest from just the one chest so you don't have to keep on running back/forth between them?

Yeah... blew my mind when I first saw this. It's such a little thing, but it saves so much time and faffing about.

I need my wood stuff, but I opened up stone, just hit the triggers until you get to the right box.

It gets better too...

Say I have a bunch of wood, stone, ore, and even things like old parts and other materials clogging up my inventory. I'd normally have to find the right box, throw them in there and then switch to another box to put the stone in.

Not in Portia, nope, you just need some of that resource already in the chests and you can auto-sort all your inventory resources into the right place at the touch of a button. In the case of the Xbox One, hold the left stick in to trigger it.

Again, it's simple, but it's such a great addition and quality of life change to the genre.

Upgrade Upgrade Upgrade

There's a lot of craftable items in Portia, from the simple tools you'll use to chop down trees, mine rocks and ore, and enjoy some relaxing fishing. There's also some complex machines which make your crafting life a lot easier down the line - stone furnaces give way to civil furnaces, and industrial furnaces...

There's a slew of raw materials to get from around the world, and from the abandoned ruins.

These can be turned into bars, plates, pipes, and more via a steadily growing set of machines.

As you play and upgrade, things get more and more complex and varied, with multiple projects on the go and numerous manufactured materials required to make them. It never gets overwhelming though, and it's always manageable.

Time and Portia

Of course you're also living near a bustling place brimming with interesting characters, day/night schedules, and your own need to sleep to recover your stamina. If it gets to 3:00 in the morning you're going to pass out and that can have detrimental effects on your next day's stamina.

To give you an idea of time: If something takes 3 hours 10 minutes to craft in game it actually takes: 3 minutes 10 seconds of real time. Of course, if you have something that's 10 hours to craft, and you go to sleep in game, you'll have less time to wait since the game's not running in real time like Farm Together.

Time and stamina management are keys to success in the game.

Indiana Builder

There are two kinds of ruins in Portia. The abandoned type, which you have to pay to access per-week and these let you dive for ore and relics with a scanner and jetpack. They're essentially a Minecraft-lite where you can dig up stone/ore/the past and gain a chunk of xp for doing so. They're fun and they're your prime resource for raw materials to refine into bars and plates.

You can also reset the area for 20 gols.

Then you have the hazardous type, which are dungeons, repeatable and randomly designed from x-to-x floors in length. They all end in the same boss, albeit stronger and more powerful than they were on the previous level. So for example, the sewer ruin which is the first hazardous one you'll encounter will take 3h to complete in terms of time it shaves off your day (the clock is paused once you're inside) but might only be 3 floors in length.

You can score some useful loot from these runs, and they're usually the only way to get uncommon and rare crafting materials you'll need for mid to late game stuff. At the end of the run you'll get a random amount of loot from the associated loot table.

Of course there are monsters, and there's a pretty robust combat system, a simple one with a few combos and different weapons on offer. It works, you can attack, dodge and hammers are amazing for stun-locking enemies to deliver superb damage.

The World is a Character

Portia is brimming with stuff to do, from learning about your fellow inhabitants, exploring parts of the map (which opens up more and more as you progress the story), romancing folks and befriending people. This in turn opens up more activities, side quests, and things to do as you become more and more immersed and known to the people of Portia itself.

As you do more impressive commissions you'll start to see the world change, things you build are added to the map over time and new areas will open up to let you get more materials and explore more dangerous places for goodies.

Then you have a full calendar which has events that trigger, like Stardew Valley over the months. Each month is a season and those bring with them different events.

Characters have birthdays, they have favourite things they like to do, and they might ask you to go on a date with them.

Unlike Stardew though, these systems aren't superficial, there's a lot going on and you can do a fair amount of activities with another person in Portia when you're not working.

Expanding Portia

There are some mid to late game additions as you level things up, and you can farm, own livestock, and even automate your assembly station. Heck, you can even get a factory much later in the game which is an incredible addition and is great fun to set up. The more you unlock, the more you get to do and the game does a good job of pacing itself as you play the core story path to the conclusion.

Even then, well, I'm not going to spoil things - but you will find there's plenty to do and whilst some of it is grindy - well - that's the nature of the crafting beast!

Pretty in Portia

On the Xbox One X it looks great, runs smoothly and I've had no real issues with the game. The world is beautiful, which is a change for a post-disaster/apocalypse and the cartoon-style graphics lend themselves perfectly to this kind of world design. There's a lot of heart here and it shows through, from monster designs, and even character animations.

It's good stuff.

Sounding Off

Don't be misled by the title there, there's nothing off about the sound design in Portia. It's good, solid, and it works well.

Music for Seasons

There's a great soundtrack here, and it fits the season you're in perfectly. I've found myself humming the theme that they use whilst mining and I really love the music when you're out and about in winter.

Great stuff again!

So, any bugs?

Apart from the odd pathing issue with a quest or the strangest of crashes - the game's been stable and as of the last patch, well, load times have been shaved down a chunk with promises of even more optimisation on the way. Not as though I found the load times to be bad at all with the game to be fair.

Voice?

Nope, there's no voice work here and before you say: Oh but the PC has it, there are reasons for that, which involve the community project. The developers have said they're working on trying to get the voice pack onto console. I don't have a problem with it, since I come from the era of non-talky games anyways. I'm not going to complain if they do put the voice pack onto console though, it'll give me a reason to play through the game as a different character and experience it all again with a different build.

Saves?

My Time at Portia saves when you sleep, rather like Stardew. It also saves previous days as well, and you can use a simple Backup command (Y button) in the Load menu to back your chosen save up which appears with a star on it. It's a nice touch and another reason why I love the game so much.

Tying it all together

I've missed some things, I've been vague on others, because there's a lot to see/do/experience with My Time at Portia which I honestly don't want to spoil for you and that's why I've not actually said much about the characters themselves. Go meet them, experience the world for yourself. It's a fun, engaging and surprisingly deep world which has been crafted over time - one of the triumphs of Early Access and a really cool addition to the genre.

Spending time in Portia is never a chore and I can't wait to see where Portia goes next and what expanded content is on the horizon.

Now, I have a factory to run...

"None for you Higgins, none for you."